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Racial/Ethnic Differences in Midlife Women's Attitudes Toward Physical Activity


  • Eun-Ok Im RN, CNS, PhD, MPH,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
  • Young Ko RN, PhD,

  • Hyenam Hwang RN, MSN,

  • Wonshik Chee PhD,

  • Alexa Stuifbergen RN, PhD,

  • Lorraine Walker RN, EdD, MPH,

  • Adama Brown PhD

Address correspondence to Eun-Ok Im, RN, CNS, PhD, MPH, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, 418 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail:



Women's racial/ethnic-specific attitudes toward physical activity have been pointed out as a plausible reason for their low participation rates in physical activity. However, very little is actually known about racial/ethnic commonalities and differences in midlife women's attitudes toward physical activity. The purpose of this study was to explore commonalities and differences in midlife women's attitudes toward physical activity among 4 major racial/ethnic groups in the United States (whites, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians).


This was a secondary analysis of the qualitative data from a larger study that explored midlife women's attitudes toward physical activity. Qualitative data from 4 racial/ethnic-specific online forums among 90 midlife women were used for this study. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis, and themes reflecting commonalties and differences in the women's attitudes toward physical activity across the racial/ethnic groups were extracted.


The themes reflecting the commonalities were: 1) physical activity is good for health, 2) not as active as I could be, 3) physical activity was not encouraged, 4) inherited diseases motivated participation in physical activity, and 5) lack of accessibility to physical activity. The themes reflecting the differences were: 1) physical activity as necessity or luxury, 2) organized versus natural physical activity, 3) individual versus family-oriented physical activity, and 4) beauty ideal or culturally accepted physical appearance.


Developing an intervention that could change the social influences and environmental factors and address the women's racial/ethnic-specific attitudes would be a priority in increasing physical activity of racial/ethnic minority midlife women.